counter

Putting People First

Daily insights on user experience, experience design and people-centred innovation
Audience Business Culture Design Locations Media Methods Services Social Issues

Children


Disabled


Elderly


Gender


Teens


Advertising


Branding


Business


Innovation


Marketing


Mechatronics


Technology


Architecture


Art


Creativity


Culture


Identity


Mobility


Museum


Co-creation


Design


Experience design


Interaction design


Presence


Service design


Ubiquitous computing


Africa


Americas


Asia


Australia


Europe


Italy


Turin


Blogging


Book


Conference


Media


Mobile phone


Play


Virtual world


Ethnography


Foresight


Prototype


Scenarios


Usability


User experience


User research


Education


Financial services


Healthcare


Public services


Research


Tourism


Urban development


Communications


Digital divide


Emerging markets


Participation


Social change


Sustainability


Posts in category 'Ethnography'

31 May 2013

How Obama used ‘Ethnography Project’ to defeat Mitt Romney in 2012

FE_DA_130430ObamaConference620x413

Ken Walsh reports on how Team Obama made an unprecedented effort to understand the voters and speak their language, slicing and dicing the electorate with a sophistication and savvy that the Republicans couldn’t match and are still scrambling to replicate.

“The Obama team’s opinion research was led by Joel Benenson, a tough-minded pollster from New York. [...]

In 2012, he succeeded, largely because the depth of his research was so extraordinary. Benenson says his goal as a pollster is “to understand the hidden architecture of opinion” and to “probe deeply into the underlying values and attitudes that shape how people are viewing the issues of the day and the content of their lives.”

One way that Benenson set the Obama campaign apart was through the ethnography project. It was designed as a deep dive into the world of everyday Americans not only to clarify their views on politics but to find insights into their “daily lives,” Benenson told me.

After the responses [to an online questionnaire] were analyzed, nine voters were chosen from among the participants in each of the three states, and they were further divided into groups of three, or “triads.” At that point, detailed interviews were conducted to learn even more about them as individuals.

They were questioned, for example, about their routines, their families, their concerns about the present and their hopes and fears about the future. Each of these sessions lasted about 2 1/2 hours. They were also asked whether Obama deserved to be re-elected, and why.

Benenson says this information, compiled into what he calls “ethno-journals,” was combined with the results of many regular opinion polls and focus groups. The ethnography project produced 1,400 pages of transcripts and data.”

27 May 2013

BBC on exploring and enhancing the TV user experience

tvux

The BBC’s R&D department has been working on how to exploit the interactive functionality now available through connected televisions through a number of projects under themes such as companion screens, authentication, Internet of Things, recommendation services, accessibility and so on.

On Saturday 27th April, at the Universite Paris Dauphine, the team co-chaired a day-long workshop called ‘Exploring and Enhancing the User Experience for Television’ (TVUX).

Check out the Workshop Wiki for a treasure throve of position papers.

27 May 2013

Social networks of mobile money in Kenya

imtfi

Social networks of mobile money in Kenya
Sibel Kusimba, Harpieth Chaggar, Elizabeth Gross, & Gabriel Kunyu
Institute for Money, Technology and Financial Inclusion
University of California, Irvine

With mobile money technologies, people use mobile phones to send money to friends and relatives, connect to bank accounts, and make payments. This research examines the role of mobile money in Kenyans’ social and economic networks. Research reported was conducted in Bungoma and Trans-Nzoia Counties in Kenya, and among Kenyans living in Chicago, Illinois in the summer of 2012.

Although mobile money services are often described as a form of “banking,” most users in Western Kenya use mobile money as a social and economic tool through which they create relationships by sending money and airtime gifts. A wide range of mobile money uses includes social gifting, assisting friends and relatives, organizing savings groups, and contributing to ceremonies and rituals.

Even though mobile money was designed for person-to-person transfers, its practices are best understood as created by collectivities and groups. In savings groups, groups of siblings and other relatives, and communities who contribute to ceremonies, users “save with others” through the entrustment of value to kin and friends and create new groups and communities based around the “floating world” of mobile technology. Individuals balance their social and economic capital in order to create marginal gains and mediate the conflicts created between social obligations and personal economic betterment. Ties to and through mothers are prominent in social networks of mobile money flows. Matrilineal kinship ties are a means of sharing or circulating money among those marginalized from access to other resources and forms of value.

24 May 2013

Interview: “Hosting Todd Harple, INTEL Experience Engineer at ITC-ILO”.

todd

Some time ago, we suggested to Todd Harple, an anthropologist at Intel, to consider doing his 10 week sabbatical here in Turin at the International Training Center of the International Labor Organization (a United Nations structure).

His sabbatical is now coming to an end and our friends at ITC-ILO have now published an interview with Todd.

24 May 2013

Big Data needs Thick Data

triciawang

In the wake of Big Data, ethnographers can offer thick data, says Tricia Wang. In the face of the derisive mention of “anecdotes”, we ought to stand up to defend the value of stories.

“Lacking the conceptual words to quickly position the value of ethnographic work in the context of Big Data, I have begun, over the last year, to employ the term Thick Data to advocate for integrative approaches to research. Thick Data uncovers the meaning behind Big Data visualization and analysis.

Thick Data analysis primarily relies on human brain power to process a small “N” while big data analysis requires computational power (of course with humans writing the algorithms) to process a large “N”. Big Data reveals insights with a particular range of data points, while Thick Data reveals the social context of and connections between data points. Big Data delivers numbers; thick data delivers stories. Big data relies on machine learning; thick data relies on human learning. [...]

Thick Data is the best method for mapping unknown territory. When organizations want to know what they do not already know, they need Thick Data because it gives something that Big Data explicitly does not—inspiration. The act of collecting and analyzing stories produces insights.

When organizations want to know what they do not already know, they need Thick Data because it gives something that Big Data explicitly does not—inspiration. The act of collecting and analyzing stories produces insights.
Stories can inspire organizations to figure out different ways to get to the destination—the insight. If you were going to drive, Thick Data is going to inspire you to teleport. Thick Data often reveals the unexpected. It will frustrate. It will surprise. But no matter what, it will inspire. Innovation needs to be in the company of imagination.”

10 May 2013

Very successful launch of Experientia’s Talking Design lecture series

 


Talking Design - Todd Harple

Click on image to view slideshow

On Wednesday evening about 20 guests and 30 Experientia staff maxed out our little conference room to attend our very first Talking Design lecture and listen to Intel anthropologist Todd Harple, who spoke about why design and social sciences need each other, now more than ever (see also links below).

The “Talking Design” guest speaker evenings are part of our drive to bring the design world to Turin. Harple inaugurated what we plan to make a long series of talks from global experts in the industry, who will share their experiences and knowledge with the staff and friends of Experientia.

A good aperitivo afterwards (a much lauded Piedmont tradition!) allowed for informal conversation and networking.

Todd Harple, who has a PhD in anthropology, is an Experience Engineer and Strategist at Intel Corporation, and is currently on sabbatical at the International Training Centre of the ILO in Turin.

We will soon let you know about the second speaker in the series, and the location (which we may have to change, due to the success of our first talk). We also plan to video record the next talk so that we can post the lecture series also online.

Here are the links Todd provided yesterday to some background reading on the topics that he addressed during his talk:

On the heritage of design in craft
Book “Design Methods: Seeds of Human Futures“, by J. Christopher Jones

For a great review of ethnography in design and implications:
Article “Implications for Design” by Paul Dourish

See Eric Dishman tell his inspirational story of data and health care as team sport:
TED Talk “Healthcare should be a team sport” by Eric Dishman

Check out CIA’s Challenges with Big Data (and notions of ownership):
GigaOM talk “The CIA’s Grand Challenges with Big Data” by Ira “Gus” Hunt, CTO of the CIA

Andersen’s notion that Big Data heralds The End of Theory discussed last night:
Article “The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete” by Chris Anderson

Kate Crawford on The Hidden Biases in Big Data that we discussed last night
Article

Controversy over Google Glass we discussed last night
Article “Google Glass Picks Up Early Signal: Keep Out” by David Streitfeld in The New York Times

Will Google Glass have same effect as Bentham’s Panopticon?

Join the discussion about responsibly managing Big Data #wethedata

6 May 2013

Tweeting Minarets: joining quantitative and qualitative research methodologies

imgres

In the last post of the EthnographyMatters Ethnomining edition (edited by Nicolas Nova), David Ayman Shamma @ayman gives a personal perspective on mixed methods. Based on the example of data produced by people of Egypt who stood up against then Egyptian president and his party in 2011, he advocates for a comprehensive approach for data analysis beyond the “Big Data vs the World” situation we seem to have reached. In doing so, his perspective complements the previous posts by showing the richness of ethnographic data in order to deepen quantitative findings.

“Discovering how communities organize, grow, and communicate under times of distress is difficult even when technology hasn’t been cut. While many things surfaced on Twitter during the revolution, like the Hardees in Tahrir being used as a safe house, many questions were left unexplained or assumed to be the work of online social networking.

This is where ethnography matters–by surfacing what to look for in the big data and highlighting what might be salient trends and features despite not being dominant. And mostly, by identifying people’s motivations and giving a deeper understanding of why things happen. From there we can start to unravel the complex communication structures at play and define new metrics informed by human action. The effort is ongoing, as we surface what has been done and what we now know through, it still says we don’t know.

It’s not a race, it’s a partnership, a marriage. The goal isn’t to get to the end as quickly as possible but rather to work together over time and build a richer world. We should strive to find these links between the quantitative and qualitative, and leave the silos which have us fragmented as a research community.”

David Ayman Shamma is a research scientist in the Internet Experiences group at Yahoo! Research for which he designs and evaluates systems for multimedia-mediated communication.

25 April 2013

Steampunking interaction design and other Interaction Magazine articles

IAX20.3_Cover

Interactions Magazine is no longer the influential voice in the interaction design community that it used to be a few years ago. Lots of the reason why has to do with the fact that the bulk of the articles are behind a membership paywall, while the content remains as relevant as ever. Here are the publicly available articles published in the latest, May-June 2013, issue:

Creating the World Citizen Parliament
The cover story by Douglas Schuler explores, very seriously and thoughtfully, how interaction designers could create a World Citizen Parliament, a bottom-up, social, and material infrastructure and a vast interconnected network of deliberative assemblies, that helps people better deliberate together to make better decisions.

Steampunking interaction design
In this feature story, Matt Walsh, who works for an advertising agency, writes about the awesome power and potential of tension as a tool for interaction designers.

Harnessing the power of positive tension
Joshua Tanenbaum, Audrey Desjardins and Karen Tanenbaum like to view Steampunk through the lens of what Julian Bleecker and Bruce Sterling have termed design fiction, and believe they have a general relevance to design within the HCI community and for the future of interaction design.

Austin Center for Design
Interview with Jon Kolko on the educational institution in Austin, Texas that teaches interaction design and social entrepreneurship.

There is more in personal heritage than data
Daniela Petrelli explores personal memory and heritage in a time of digital obsolescence.

Interactive systems for health
Gillian Hayes, the new Health Matters forum editor, lays out three ways in which designers, researchers, and practitioners are reconsidering information and evidence within the realm of health IT.

23 April 2013

Plant Wars player patterns: visualization as scaffolding for ethnographic insight

roger-shant-visualization

The latest contribution to Ethnomining, the April 2013 Ethnographymatters edition on combining qualitative and quantitative data, edited by Nicolas Nova, is by Rachel Shadoan and Alicia Dudek who present an interesting case study, based on visualizations, involving an on-line role-playing game.

“We embarked on a study to understand both how the Plant Wars players played and why they played. Visualizing the data generated by the player’s in-game actions provided the map, answering the how and what questions. Interviewing the participants and participating in the game ourselves provided the key to that map, answering the why questions.”

Rachel Shadoan likes to find answers to interesting questions, and build interesting things using those answers. Currently she is answering interesting questions in the Intel Labs using a combination of data visualization, data mining, and ethnographic techniques.

Alicia Dudek is a design ethnographer and user experience consultant. Her passion is finding unusual solutions to the usual problems. Currently, she is finding unusual solutions for Deloitte Digital, where she specializes in engaging stakeholders in research insights through participatory design workshops.

16 April 2013

Book: Hidden in Plain Sight (by Jan Chipchase)

hiddeninplainsight

Hidden in Plain Sight: How to Create Extraordinary Products for Tomorrow’s Customers
by Jan Chipchase
Harper Collins Publishers
April 2013
256 pages
(Amazon link)

A global-innovation expert offers a new perspective on how consumers think and how to develop products and services that affect their everyday lives.

Who are your next customers—not just the ones you are serving today but the ones you’ll need three, five, or ten years from now? How do you figure out what goods and services will attract them in the future before your competitors do?

According to Jan Chipchase—whom Fast Company has called the “James Bond of design research” and Fortune has called the “Indiana Jones of technology for the developing world”—most of the clues are right in front of us. The key is learning to see the ordinary in a revolutionary new way. As the executive creative director of Global Insights at frog, an award-winning global design and innovation company, Chipchase draws on everyday objects and patterns to show us how to see the world differently, from making a phone call to filling up a gas tank to ascertaining whether it’s actually half-and-half you’re pouring into your coffee. Chipchase is always looking for opportunities—gaps, anomalies, and contradictions—that will give his clients, some of the world’s largest and most successful companies, a distinct competitive advantage, whether they’re delivering the most low-tech bar of soap or the most high-tech wireless network.

In Hidden in Plain Sight, Chipchase takes readers on his journeys around the globe and shares his methods for identifying the unmet needs of customers. No matter where he stops—whether Cleveland or Kabul—his goals are the same: to spot and decode the routines of daily life and to help readers use the very same tools that he and his team use to see, and capitalize upon, what is hidden in plain sight today to create businesses tomorrow.

Excerpt
Recent article by Jan Chipchase on Google Glass

3 April 2013

EthnographyMatters on combining qualitative and quantitative data (edition by Nicolas Nova)

data

The April 2013 EthnographyMatters edition is edited by Nicolas Nova, consultant and researcher at the Near Future Laboratory, and is about combining qualitative and quantitative data.

In his introduction, Nova writes:

“While ethnography generally draws on qualitative data, it does not not mean that quantitative approaches shouldn’t be employed in the research process. Combining the two leads to a “mixed-method approach” that can take various forms: data collection and analysis can be either separated or addressed together, and each of them can be used in service of the other. Of course, this isn’t new in academic circles and corporate ethnography but there seems to be a renewed interest lately in this topic.

One of the driving forces of this renewed interest is the huge amount of information produced by people, things, space and their interactions — what some have called “Big Data“. The large data sets created by people’s activity on digital devices has indeed led to a surge of “traces” from smartphone apps, computer programs and environmental sensors. Such information is currently expected to transform how we study human behavior and culture, with, as usual, utopian hopes, dystopian fears and *critical sighs* from pundits.

Although most of the work of Big Data has focused on quantitative analysis, it is interesting to observe how ethnographers relate to it. Some offer a critical perspective, but others see it as an opportunity to create innovative methodologies to benefit from this situation.

Aside from Rebekah Rousi’s post (featured here yesterday), EthnographyMatters will feature various case studies and perspectives on the implications of mixed-methods approaches, including Fabien Girardin (on how he used sensor data to yield field observations in a study for Le Louvre in Paris), Alex Leavitt (discussing his research on Tumbler using a computational ethnography perspective), Tricia Wang (sharing her thoughts about the opposite of Big Data, in what she calls “thick data”) and David Ayman Shamma from Yahoo! Research (describing his personal perspective on the topic).

2 April 2013

Michele Visciola speaking on ‘Town_Re-coding’

trec

On 11 April, Experientia president Michele Visciola will be a guest speaker at the Town Re-coding seminar (pdf), a Turin event to discuss perceptions, tensions and actions for change in the physical and social spaces of cities.

The Italian-language seminar involves the Polytechnic of Turin, the University of Turin, the Alma Mater Studiorum, and the University of Bologna.

The Turin initiative is part of a wider series that started with an inaugural event in Ravenna ten days ago, and will conclude in a conference – again in Ravenna – on 28-30 June 2013.

Guest speakers at the Turin seminar will explore new models for economy and consumption, and ways to reimagine urban spaces.

Michele will speak on “Ethnographic Research and the Evolution of Culture,” looking at ways to positively design and shape changes in the urban arena, so that they will be easily and sustainably adopted by people.

Michele has published multiple articles on behavioural change and participatory design in urban environments, and on natural selection in cultural innovation.

2 April 2013

An uplifting experience – the ethnography of the elevator user experience

westpac-lifts2

Rebekah Rousi, a researcher of user psychology and PhD candidate of Cognitive Science at the University of Jyväskylä, Finland, describes on EthnographyMatters how the combination of qualitative and quantitative data collection was fruitful in her analysis of elevator usage.

“A few years ago a leading elevator design and manufacturing company gave me the task of examining how people experienced and interacted with elevators. The scope included everything from hall call buttons, to cabin interior design and perception of technical design. When given the brief, the artistic director noted country specific design features (or omissions) and even mentioned that there may be observable elevator habits I would want to take note of. Then, on our bidding a corporate-academic farewell she added that I might want to consider the psychology of the surrounding architectural environment. With that, I was left with a long list of to-do’s and only one method I could think of that would be capable of incorporating so many factors – ethnography. Ethnographic inquiry provides a framework in which the researcher’s own observations and experiences of the phenomenon under study – in this case elevator users’ behaviour in relation to the elevators, other users and the surrounding architectural environment – can be combined with “insiders’” opinions and insights.”

28 March 2013

Is Open Government working?

opengov

In an insightful blog post, Reboot principal Panthea Lee asks if open government initiatives make citizens more informed and engaged, and make governments more accountable to their people? What impact have open government initiatives had so far?

Reboot is a USA-based service design firm working in the fields of global governance and development.

Four questions, she writes, might be worth considering for those working to measure and achieve impact in this space:

1. Who gains from Open Government?
Which populations have the access and motivation to use these channels? Frequently, programs and platforms privilege certain groups over others.

2. How do we reach “The Other Side”?
There are two sides to the open government coin: citizens and governments. The goal is to facilitate constructive dialogue between the two, but many projects seem to focus on one side or the other.

3. Can we do better than equating scale with success?
Replication and scale are not always appropriate indicators of success. The effectiveness of most open government initiatives will be context dependent. Replication requires programs to standardize as many elements of its models and activities as possible.

4. How do Open Government processes change people?
Open government initiatives seek to mobilize citizens and to motivate governments to respond. But what are the processes through which change occurs?

28 March 2013

What can ethnography bring to the study of deliberative democracy?

 

Open government initiatives offer new, often technologically enabled avenues for civic participation. But which populations have the access and motivation to use these channels? Frequently, programs and platforms privilege certain groups over others.

An ethnographic study of participatory budgeting in Rome (conducted by Julien Talpin of the University of Lille) found that participation skewed towards those who were already active in civic affairs and in relative positions of power. Sixty-three percent of participants were activists. White-collar workers and those over 50 were also over-represented.

Abstract

The study of the individual effects of participation has mainly focused on the impact of deliberation on actors’ preferences, mostly based on quantitative and experimental research. I argue here that ethnography, based on a praxeologic and process approach, can offer broader results on actors’ learning in participatory devices than the cognitive effects generally emphasized.

Grounded in a case-study of a participatory budget in Rome, the research shows participation allows learning new skills and civic habits but may also bring about a greater distrust with politics.

Explaining the learning process, the paper stresses the different learning potential of participatory institutions. A condition for the durability of the effects observed is that participation be repeated over time. This requires integration within the institution, which happens for only a few; the majority of participants being disappointed stop participating. Speaking the language of the institution, some participants are however integrated enough to acquire further civic skills and knowledge, and even to endure a politicization process.

Finally, the study of actors’ long-term trajectories allows drawing conclusions on the social conditions of civic bifurcation. Ethnography thereby allows grasping the long-term consequences of civic engagement.

20 March 2013

Ethnography: Ellen Isaacs at TEDxBroadway

 

Ellen Isaacs (personal site), a user experience designer and ethnographer at PARC, spoke on January 28 at TEDx Broadway about the power of ethnography and how it might be useful in inspiring the future of Broadway.

As per usual with TEDx events, a video is now available.

13 March 2013

methods@manchester: research methods in the social sciences

 

methods@manchester is a website created by the University of Manchester to highlight and explain research methods in the social sciences. Many sections come with lecture videos and reading lists.

Readers will be particularly interested in the sections on collaborative approaches, ethnographic methods and qualitative interview analysis.

7 March 2013

Reaching those beyond Big Data

panthea_thumb1

Opening up the Stories to Action edition of Ethnography Matters is Panthea Lee’s @panthealee moving story about a human trafficking outreach campaign that her company, Reboot, designed for Safe Horizon.

In David Brook’s recent NYT column, What Data Can’t Do, he lists several things that big data is unable to accomplish. After reading the notes to Panthea’s talk below, we’d all agree that big data also leaves out people who live “off the grid.”

As Panthea tells her story about Fatou (pseudonym), a person who has been trafficked, we learn that many of the services we use to make our lives easier, like Google Maps or Hop Stop, are also used by human traffickers to maintain dominance and power over people they are controlling.

Panthea shares the early prototypes in Reboot’s design and how they decided to create a campaign that would take place at cash checking shops.

In this post, Panthea shares her notes to the talk that she gave at Microsoft’s annual Social Computing Symposium organized by Lily Cheng at NYU’s ITP. You can also view the video version of her talk.

5 March 2013

Language issues. An Interview with Brigitte Jordan

gj_oval

Last September, social anthropologist Nora Schenkel had the opportunity to interview Brigitte Jordan, described by Cat Macaulay as one of the “godmothers” of design ethnography. Schenkel interviewed her on how she transitioned as one of the first from academically grounded anthropology into the field of corporate ethnography.

“I think moving into the corporate sector was like moving into a new culture, Jordan agreed. Except that you think because you have in some respects the same language, you can rely on what you know.”

The interview is now posted (Part 1 | Part 2) on the blog of the Design Ethnography Community at Dundee University.

28 February 2013

On legitimacy, place and the anthropology of the Internet

sarahkendzior

In this thoughtful piece for Ethnography Matters, Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior) discusses the ways in which the internet has transformed the relationship between the writer and the people about whom he or she writes. Sarah has written extensively about open access to scholarly publications (‘one paper (she) uploaded to Academia.edu… helped Uzbek refugees find a safe haven abroad’, according to one interview). 

In this post, Sarah writes about a deeper question regarding the openness of the research process and the ways in which the internet has led to a leveling of the playing fields in a way that some anthropologists would rather ignore than confront. After all, when the “subaltern speaks” and anyone, not just anthropologists, can hear, who exactly is doing the exposing?

The article was adapted from a chapter of her dissertation which she had been encouraged to publish in an academic journal, but since she actually want people to read it, she published it online instead.

In the article, she asks why anthropologists ignore the internet as a field site and what challenges they may face if they continue to do so:

“Today anthropology is facing a crisis of place, representation, and legitimacy similar to what journalism experienced a decade ago. Like journalists at the turn of the millennium, anthropologists have dealt with the challenges posed by the internet by ignoring them, downplaying the importance of the medium, and discounting its impact on the lives of the people they study. Despite the importance of the internet to people all over the world, there are few ethnographic studies of internet use conducted by anthropologists, and the anthropologists who do conduct this kind of research are marginalized and dismissed.[…]

Anthropology of the internet forces the question of whether being seen as an anthropologist is more important than doing meaningful ethnography. It strips the discipline of its elite trappings, requiring no excessive funding or dramatic upending of one’s life. What it does require is for the researcher to rely on more than just a dateline. When you are not going anywhere, you have to make the journey matter.”